Journey to Heaven – part 4

In the previous 3 parts of this 4-part series, we have considered some of the obstacles that can deter us from the completion of our heavenly trek: willful rebellion against God’s ways, eternal death for those same folks that practice unrepentant rebellion, and a focus on the flesh rather than the spirit, which is always rooted in pride. Jesus summed up the way to get past all of that, as well as the urgency in which it must be done:

“Repent [change your inner self – your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mt. 4:17 AMP

The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is biblically the same as the ‘kingdom of God.’ It is a spiritual kingdom, an inner kingdom that can only be entered through one’s change of heart, (through earnest repentance and choosing Christ as your Savior) – a spiritual state to be lived out on this earth. It is a kingdom of God’s children: a family dedicated to forwarding that kingdom by lovingly offering it to as many other potential recipients as possible.

Yet, it is also a kingdom that we aspire to spend eternity in, when we transition from our life on this present earth to our heavenly destiny. So, the kingdom lives in the present, and at the same time there awaits an eternal manifestation of the same for all of God’s children:

For the outward form of this world (its present social and material nature) is passing away. 1 Cor. 7:31 AMP

It’s going to be a good thing because Jesus has already made preparations for your transition:

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to My self, that where I am, there you may be also” Jn. 14:2, 3. NASB

And again, Christ presses upon us the urgency to be rightly positioned with God immediately; because if we don’t do this before we take our last breath or before Jesus returns (whichever comes first), we will have lost our ticket to eternity:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only…Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Mt. 24:36 & 44. NKJV

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 Jn. 2:17 ESV

…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Rm. 5:9 NASB

On the ‘Last Day’ of time, God will pour His wrath upon all the people who rejected Him and His Son – not due to an act of heartless vengeance, but as a result of a forced ‘sifting’ of His children away from the rebels, because as the God of Truth, He must mete out His word. The people have been lovingly warned by Him for thousands of years…

For those who chose to remain on their journey to heaven, there will be a vast holy city called ‘New Jerusalem’ for all the saints to dwell in with their Creators (God and Son) – located on a new idyllic paradise of a new earth suspended in a transformed cosmos. (Ps. 102:25 – 27; Is. 65:17 – 19; 2 Pt. 3:12, 13; Rv. 21:1 – 7 & 22 – 27.)

And it will be awesome:

“The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil…a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zeph. 3:15 & 17. ESV

Furthermore, we shall be transformed:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. Is. 35:5, 6. NKJV

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man…For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Cor. 15:49 & 53. NKJV

And in that heaven, there shall be peace, joy and every need fulfilled and exceeded:

Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. Mic. 4:3, 4. NASB

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rv. 7:16, 17. ESV

So, what is the bottom line? If you accept Christ as your Savior and live out a godly life to the best of your ability, (confessing and repenting when you slip), God wipes away all strikes against you, you get a grace-filled journey to eternity, get fitted with a perfect immortal body in the likeness of Christ, live eternally in peace and joy with all the children of God throughout the ages, and get to bask in the glory of the Father and the Son.

All God asks of us is to keep our eyes on the prize…

Goodnight and God bless.

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Journey to Heaven – part 3

In examining our greatest divine promise, that is, a successful journey to heaven, we also looked at some of the barriers that must be overcome to complete that pilgrimage; e.g. a rebellious will that opposes God (see part. 1). Let’s look at another very similar barrier, which is ‘living by the flesh.’ And again, we’ll use some of St. Augustine’s scriptural insights from his book The City of God, to elucidate its meaning.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these…those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5:19 – 21. ESV

For among the works of the flesh which he (Paul) said were manifest, and which he cited for condemnation, we find not only those which concern the pleasures of the flesh as fornication…drunkenness, but also those which, though they may be remote from fleshly pleasure, reveal the vices of the soul…idolatries, witchcraft…hatreds…envying…For it is quite possible for a man to abstain from fleshly pleasures for the sake of idolatry or some heretical error; and yet, even when he does so…he is living after the flesh – St. Augustine

What our venerable theologian is driving at, is that we do have a corruptible body due to the propagation of Adam’s original sin, but, that that is not the true nature of the body, which was created in perfection. So, the deduction is that sin in not caused by the flesh but is from the free-will of the soul – choosing to give into the desires of the flesh and of soul’s other God-Contrarian desires.

Furthermore, owing to the source of the corruption of the flesh, that corruption must consist as a punishment for (Adam’s) sin, but not the originator of our sin. Many sins, as pointed out, are not attributed to the flesh, yet all of them are instigated from the adversary, who, by the way, has no flesh. Thus, it is when man lives by his own dictates, rather than God’s, that he takes on the devil’s sinful nature.

…all sin is a lie. For no sin is committed save by that desire or will by which we desire that it be well with us, and shrink from it being ill with us…but makes us more miserable than we were…because the source of man’s happiness lies only in God, whom he abandons when he sins… St. Augustine

When one lives carnally, they cannot connect with God, or understand Him, because in their disobedience, they have abandoned HIs truth:

But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and the revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters]. 1 Cor. 2:11 – 14. AMP

So, ‘acting carnally’ can be applied to living by the desires of the flesh and / or of the soul. And the soul is directed by the will. It derives joy from fulfilling its desires and expresses fear and or sadness as a response to any experience it does not desire.

In dealing with carnal people, Christians are commanded to apply agape love:

…since no one is evil by nature, but whoever is evil is evil by vice, he who lives according to God out to cherish toward evil men a perfect hatred, so that he shall neither hate the man because of his vice, nor love the vice because of the man, but hate the vice and love the man. – St. Augustine

We’ve all been there. And God is well aware of what we suffer through, having suffered the same temptations in the visage of His Son:

…He became a man when it pleased Him, so, in the grace of His definite purpose, when it pleased Him He experienced those emotions in His human soul. – St. Augustine

For we do not have High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. Heb. 4:15 AMP

Praise God for His salvation through Christ, because we all need it:

…he who thinks he lives without sin puts aside not sin, but pardon. – St. Augustine

The only pure goodness in this universe exists within the Godhead, where there is no evil to be found. Conversely, because the nature of ourselves is innately good (disregarding Adam’s corruption), evil cannot exist without that good nature with which it inhabits.

…evil is removed, not by removing any nature, or part of a nature, which had been introduced by the evil, but by healing and correcting that which had been vitiated and depraved. The will, therefore, is then truly free, when it is not the slave of vices and sins. Such was it given us by God; and this being lost by its own fault, can only be restored by Him who was first able to give it. – St. Augustine

If we consider Adam and Eve, we find that our ‘humanness’ directly mirrors their behavior with regards to our relationship with God. Just as we first consider our desire to sin in our will before we commit it, Adam and Eve could not have been different.

Just like them, most if not all of our sins begins with pride, with the desire to satisfy the lust of oneself.

A man’s pride and sense of self-importance will bring him down… Pr. 29:23 AMP

Adam and Eve could not have been provoked to try to ‘be like gods,’ had they not first taken in that suggestion and weighed it in their wills, before succumbing to their desire. And so, their sin proceeded their ingestion of the fruit.

We are no different:

By craving to be more, man becomes less; and by aspiring to be self-sufficing, he fell away from Him who truly suffices – St. Augustine

For Adam and Eve, the sin didn’t end there. Remember that God came to them after the committed the ‘act’ of sin:

Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” Gn. 3:9 NASB

As if God didn’t know. St. Augustine suggests that it was at that point that He was letting Adam know He was separated from them – spiritually. God then questioned them, and they multiplied their sin by trying to lay the blame on someone else: Eve on the serpent, and Adam on Eve and then on God Himself. I believe that God was giving them a chance to confess and repent, but their pride defeated them.

And thus, all our troubles began. Thankfully, our God is gracious and full of lovingkindness. He always has an outstretched arm, to pull the willing back onto that heavenward path.

Next time…

Goodnight and God bless.

Journey to Heaven – part 2

With a little help from the book City of God by St. Augustine, translated by Marcus Dods:

For, though Himself eternal, and without beginning, yet He caused time to have a beginning; and man, whom He had not previously made He made in time, not from a new and sudden resolution, but by His unchangeable and eternal design – St. Augustine

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us before the foundation of the world… Eph. 1:3, 4. NKJV

 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come you blessed of My Father [you favored of God, appointed to eternal salvation], inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Mt. 25:34 AMP

 The reason we’re here is because God chose us, loves us, and we are a part of his eternal plan. We are also the epitome of His design for living beings – the closest to being like Him:

 God then made man in His own image. For He created for him a soul endowed with reason and intelligence, so that he might excel all the creatures of earth, air, and sea, which were not so gifted – St. Augustine.

 It is God’s desire to eternally commune with His children – those, as we saw last time, that align their will with His.

 We are born for a journey to heaven. And as soon as we become aware of our Creator and His salvation plan, we must receive this free gift by accepting His Son as our Savior – followed by doing our best to live as Jesus did.

God planned out who we would be and what kind of life He wanted us to have before we were conceived in the womb. That kind of life is our journey to heaven, the quality of which will be dependent upon our free-will choices. We are born, grow to our physical potential, and then begin a dying process.

However, that process is not one to be feared or to be a source of sadness. It is a progression towards our eternal home – filled with promises of love, joy and peace everlasting. Dying and death are two different things.

When the faithful children of God reach the end of their mortal clock on this earth, they pass through death:

…since you have been set free from sin and have become the [willing] slaves of God, you have your present benefit, resulting in sanctification [being made holy and set apart for God’s purpose, and the outcome [of this] is eternal life. Rm. 6:22 AMP

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Jn. 8:51 NKJV

 We are blessed.  The death suffered by those who reject God is the polar opposite:

…the human soul is truly affirmed to be immortal…because in a sense, it does not cease to live…while the body is called mortal because it can be forsaken of all life, and cannot by itself live at all. The death, then, of the soul takes place when God forsakes it, as the death of the body when the soul forsakes it….And this death of the whole man is followed by…the second death…For in that penal and everlasting punishment…the soul is justly said to die, because it does not live in connection with God – St. Augustine

The children of God’s version of death is a glorious transition:

Thus, by the unutterable mercy of God, even the very punishment of wickedness has become the armor of virtue, and the penalty of the sinner becomes the reward of the righteous. For then death was incurred by sinning, now righteousness is fulfilled by dying.

Not that death, which was before an evil, has become something good, but only that God has granted to faith this grace, that death, which is the admitted opposite to life, should become the instrument by which life is reached – St. Augustine

…the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. Eccl. 7:1 NASB

Precious in  the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Ps. 116:15 NKJV

Again, let’s look at the contrast:

…death is good to the good, and evil to the evil. For the disembodied spirits of the just are at rest; but those of the wicked suffer punishment till their bodies rise again – those of the just to life everlasting, and of the others to death eternal, which is called the second death…of all the evils the worst, since it consists not in the separation of soul and body, but in the uniting of both in death eternal…always in death; and thus never living, never dead, but endlessly dying – St. Augustine

Strong case for being on the side of God, yes? We all have to go through death because of Adam’s original sin, but thanks be to the saving grace of God that as His obedient children, we get to leave that death behind.

Before Adam’s transgression, we weren’t meant to die in any fashion. That was forced upon us by Adam’s disobedience:

…we are subject to the death of the body, not by the law of nature, by which God ordained no death for man, but by His righteous infliction on account of sin; for God, taking vengeance on sin, said to the man, in whom we all then were, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” St. Augustine

Again however, that condition is only transitory for those who accept God through Christ:

…the souls of the just and holy dead live in peaceful rest…and further, that the saints will in the resurrection inhabit those very bodies in which they have here toiled, but in such a sort that neither corruption of unwieldiness be suffered to attach to their flesh…Thus the souls of the departed saints are not affected by the death which dismisses them from their bodies, because their flesh rests in hope – St. Augustine

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection… Rm. 6:5 NASB

It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is rated in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:42 – 44. NASB

We gain a ‘spiritual’ body because it is one that is finally in total subjection to our spirit. It will be totally self-sufficient and immortal. We will be able to dine on heavenly delicacies, but it won’t be necessary to eat if we don’t want to. No disease, no sorrow, no death – only joy…

Goodnight and God bless.

Journey to Heaven

Still investigating God’s wisdom revealed to St. Augustine in his book, City of God…

How can we help God help us make that journey? Sounds funny doesn’t it? Yet, as much as God wants to help us, He is bound by His own words. If we transgress them, He must allow us to face the consequences until we confess and repent.

Let’s start with the foundation of what we are. St. Augustine described it like this:

For nonentity is the contrary of that which is. And thus there is no being contrary to God, the supreme Being, and Author of all beings whatsoever.

God saw that everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good and He validated it completely. Gn. 1:31 AMP

What does that mean? It means Satan and the angels who followed him were created perfectly, and Adam and Eve were created perfectly. None of these beings had any innate evil within them. Yet they all did evil (sinful) things.

Augustine again: In Scripture they are called God’s enemies who oppose His rule, not by nature…but by their will…

You oppose God by yielding to your free will, in order to languish in the ways of the world that are contrary to God. You make yourself an enemy:

“The hand of God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all who forsake Him.” Ezra 8:22 NASB

Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? James 4:4 NLT

We know that our God is not an angry God as a rule. He is love itself. We encounter His ire when we transgress against Him because He doesn’t want to be separated from us. He knows that when we are, we are killing ourselves.

St. Augustine illustrates this self-destruction thusly:

…the vice which makes those who are called His enemies resist Him, is an evil not to God, but to themselves. And to them it is an evil, solely because it corrupts their good nature…hurt them by depriving them of integrity, beauty, welfare, virtue…

…when the will abandons what is above itself, and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil – not because that is evil to which it turns, but the turning itself is wicked.

…the defection of the will is evil, because it is contrary to the order of nature…and that makes light of the voice of conscience…nothing else that defection from God…

So, we must work on our faith in God. Why? Because if we believed that God’s ways were the better ways, we would not violate them in the first place. We have to cleave to God, place our faith in that our hearts would be far more satisfied by His treasures, than by the temporal and destructive pleasures of our senses and the hungers of our ego.

Worse, these indulgences ultimately cause suffering; and if they continue without repentance, death will ensue – of a permanent variety.

When you are chasing after the world, you are in essence going after other ‘gods.’ You’re transgressing God’s first Commandment:

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Ex. 20:3 NKJV

Instead, cling to the guarantees of our Savior, and abandon independence for a godly dependence upon Jesus, so that you may be bearers of His grace. It is within that grace that your healing will begin, and your Christ-produced heavenly wholeness will be reborn.

Be thankful for God’s grace and He will shore you up to resist temptation, so as to keep your slips off of His path to a minimum:

…in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18 AMP

For God has not called us to impurity, but to holiness [to be dedicated, and set apart by behavior that pleases Him, whether in public or private]. So whoever rejects and disregards this is not [merely] rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you [to dwell in you and empower you to overcome temptation]. 1 Thess. 4:7, 8. AMP

Then, your heavenly journey will resume…

Goodnight and God bless.

Relating to God

Recently, we have been examining the Holy Spirit-inspired scriptural interpretations of St. Augustine from his book The City of God, translated by Marcus Dods, (see previous posts: ‘Defenders of the Faith,’ and ‘In Further Defense of the Faith’) – a work for strengthening the faith of the Christians in Rome during the demise of that empire.

Let’s continue on by perusing his analysis of our intimate relationship with our Creator – beginning with this declaration:

…for we are all His temple, each of us severally (separately) and all of us together, because He condescends to inherit each individually and the whole harmonious body, being no greater in all than in each, since He is neither expanded or divided. Our heart when it rises to Him is His altar; the priest who intercedes for us is His only begotten…

Do you not know and understand that you [the church] are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells [permanently] in you [collectively and individually]? 1 Cor. 3:16 AMP

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, whom you have [received as a gift] from God, and that you are not your own [property]? 1 Cor. 6:19 AMP

Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. Rm. 8:34 AMP

We are walking, talking temples of God – recipients of the Father’s grace, maintained through the intercession of His Son. For that, we are grateful, and we should act in ways that keep that gratitude in remembrance. Augustine puts it this way:

…to Him we devote and surrender ourselves and His gifts in us; to Him, by solemn feasts and on appointed days, we consecrate the memory of His benefits, lest through the lapse of time ungrateful oblivion should steal upon us; to Him we offer on the altar of our heart the sacrifice of humility and praise, kindled by the fire of burning love.

It is that we may see Him, so far as He can be seen; it is that we may cleave to Him, that we are cleansed from all stain of sins and evil passions, and are consecrated in His name. For He is the fountain of our happiness, He is the end of all our desires.

God does not need our devotion, worship or capitulation. He asks of us all these things for our benefit – to position ourselves for love. Augustine says:

For no man would say he did a benefit to a fountain by drinking, or to the light by seeing.

He does require sacrifice – that of a contrite heart, again, to place oneself in humility before Him, in order to receive His grace:

My [only] sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart [broken with sorrow for sin, thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise. Ps. 51:17 AMP

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you except to be just, and to love [and diligently practice] kindness (compassion), and to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? Mic. 6:8 AMP

All of our sacrifices, regardless of their nature, must always have an increased union with God as the focus of those activities. In essence, our ultimate sacrifice is to die to the world, as we draw closer to Jehovah God in relationship:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh [and died for us], arm yourselves [like warriors] with the same purpose [being willing to suffer for doing what is right and pleasing God], because whoever has suffered in the flesh [being like-minded with Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [having stopped pleasing the world], so that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living for human appetites and desires, but [lives] for the will and purpose of God. 1 Pt. 4:1, 2. AMP

Thus, in our relationship with the Godhead, we are bolstered in our attempts to overcome the world, and the god of it, the process whereby, is succinctly expressed by Augustine:

…men of God cast out the hostile power of the air which opposes godliness; it is by exorcising it, not by propitiating it; and they overcome all the temptations of the adversary by praying, not to him, but to their own God against him. For the devil cannot conquer or subdue any but those who are in league with sin…he is conquered in the name of Him who assumed humanity…Christ Jesus…

Indeed, it is our faith that cements our relationship with God – faith that is filtered into us by Jesus Himself:

…God’s Son, assuming humanity without destroying His divinity, established and founded this faith, that there might be a way for man to man’s God through a God-man.

…let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity]… Heb. 12:1, 2. AMP

It is a wondrous thing, a blessing,  this relationship that God makes available to and for us. We alone were made in His image. Augustine states:

…nearer to Him in nature than any other of HIs works, and is destined to be yet restored, that it may bear a still closer resemblance.

Above all, what is at the heart of all this relating to God, is His unending, immeasurable love – whereby He brings us into His bosom for all eternity…

Goodnight and God bless.